I have always hated that giant forest.
It almost would swallow up our house when I was a child, before my grandfather cut down the trees in front of the house. But the massive pine forest remained behind the house. He said he liked it, way out away from the city.
We lived in a tiny town in Northern Michigan, which, if anyone ever visited, would find is made up of mostly forests. Wildlife and nature abundant, but I was never the outdoorsy type. I just never liked it, and found myself much happier inside. Something about the silence in the middle of nowhere, I think is why I disliked it.
I still can’t recall when the whispers started. Maybe they have always been there.
Our dogs were not put on leashes or anything like that when they were let out, since we lived so far from people. They did wander, with their given freedom. We never let them out after dark though. It just seemed like a bad idea with things like coyotes and bears running about. That’s why I was worried, the night my lab, Bear, got out. My room had one large window that faced the treeline. I happened to glance over from my computer to see Bear’s tail disappear into the inky black forest. I sighed, getting up to shout from the window. He was usually good about coming when called, but tonight he had decided something was far too interesting. Normally my grandfather would have been shouting for him to come back in, but he was gone for the weekend, some gun show he had been very enthused about.
Irritated, I put on my sneakers and made my way out back. I stood on the edge of the woods, shouting for Bear. I could hear him, barking and running back and forth deeper in. I inched my way into the dark, using my phone as my only source of light. I cursed the branches and twigs that scratched at my face as I pushed through them.
That sound. It still sounds terrible, echoing through my mind as if I am standing in front of it again.
The screeching yelp ripped through the forest.
My brain must have stopped warning me about the danger of where I was, as I being running to where I thought I had heard him.
When you see something like that, I think you question of it’s real. It was the first time I could recall seeing Bear totally still. No breathing, no barking. His tail laid limp on the pine needle and dirt floor. The crimson stains on his white fur brought a sick feeling into my throat. I couldn’t speak, or yell, or even move. A tear ran down my cheek, as I had no sign that any life remained in my beloved pet.
My sadness was only interrupted by the sudden fear that still shakes me, even now despite being far from that forest.
The whispers. I could hear them all around me in that damned forest. They were whispering about me, about my now dead pet, about this place. It was a roar of hushed tones, and I could just see, toward the top of the trees, many sets of reflective eyes peering down at me. The sick giggles that escaped them was cold, harsh, and gave my spine chills as I stood frozen, peering up to the trees. The shadows around me seemed to grow darker, as I found myself growing dizzy. It took all I had to urge my legs to move, and get away from those…things. I ran, ignoring the sting of the branches raking across my face, until I could see the warm glow of my bedroom window, just outside of the treeline. I don’t think I ever slammed the front door so hard in my life. I cannot recall if I slept that night, or the nights following. But they were not gone. They had moved closer to our home.
A 17 year old never takes the death of a pet well, and I wish I could tell you that I mourned poor Bear the next few days, but I didn’t. I was too afraid. I also wish I could have thought ahead, and that I wasn’t so naive to think it was all a dream, hallucination, or just not handling Bear’s passing well. But they were real. And I would come to find that, as I sat in the dusk hours, hunching over my laptop. My eyes stung from crying throughout that day, and perhaps from sitting in the dark staring at a bright screen.
I stopped, with a hitch in my breath, as a shadow darted across my window blinds. I probably would have never noticed, had the moon not been shining through the blinds. My heart started to beat harder as the small scratches from the roof started. Soft thumps, as if something small were landing on the shingles, and then a dragging sound followed as they moved. And then it started. The whispers. Circling my roof, that’s what it sounded like. Sick heavy scraping sounds, as they moved. Images from the night before flashed into my mind, of Bear and those eyes. I didn’t know what to do, I couldn’t scream, what if they heard me? Too many things were going through my mind, as I didn’t hear the soft tear of my window screen.
I watched in horror as it pushed it’s small, deformed head through the window. I couldn’t move, paralyzed as it stared at me with sunken, awful eyes. Its long clawed hands tore at the screen to shove itself the rest of the way through. I panicked, nearly ripping the doors from their hinges, running from the house. My chest was tight as I ran, sprinting down the dirt driveway to turn and run down the road. I didn’t realize at the moment how dark it was outside, all I cared about was getting out of the that house. I only ran for a few minutes, but it felt like hours. I finally stopped in the middle of the dirt road, my house just a ways out of my view. I hunched over, trying to let my breath catch up to me. My rest was cut short when I heard them, leaping from tree to tree, their sharp laughter piercing through the night air. The last thing I saw before I felt a claw plunge into my side was a pair of reflective, shining white eyes plummet down from one of those damned trees.
My blood was hot, running down my stomach. I opened my eyes to see the dark forest around me, pine needles piercing into my skin. How did I get here? It stung, as I got up, and I could just see the faint lights of my home. With a limp, I tried pulling myself into the yard but collapsed a mere 20 feet from my home. And then I heard it. Whispers, giggles and the skittering of small creatures over the cold ground. I couldn’t bare to look up, as it grew closer. But something happened, and the sounds stopped. After a few moments, I looked up to see my grandfather standing over me, gun tracing the edges of the treeline. He helped me up, a cold, silent understanding crossed his face as he helped me back into the house.
It’s been 2 weeks since all that happened to me. I am moving away from my grandfather’s, to stay with an aunt in Detroit. She is supposed to be here soon tonight sometime to get me, and my things. I won’t miss this place. I won’t miss this town.
But mostly I won’t miss those trees. Every night since that happened, my grandfather stayed up in the living room, watching that treeline. We had buried Bear a week prior, just on the edge of the forest. I glanced out to the large rock we painted for him, but my gaze drifted off to the shadowed forest. I could see what had to be my aunt’s headlights sweep across the yard, and with it, all of the eyes were illuminated at once at the tops of the trees. Twenty, to maybe thirty pairs, all at once, almost shining like the stars. I felt… angry. Angry that these things were chasing me from my home. I had told my grandfather that I had gotten into an art school down there, but that had been a lie. I just wanted to be away from those woods. I grabbed my bag, as I heard my aunt open our front door. I looked around at the odds and ends I was leaving here to pick up at another time, and sighed. I almost smiled, as I turned down my hallway and entered the living room. I stopped, confused. No one was sitting on the couch, and the lights were off. I looked into the front yard to see my aunt’s car. It was on, but all the doors were open. I squint into the dark, to see something dripping down the windshield of the car… Was that?
At that moment, I turned, to see the screen door in the back slide open, and something small pull itself up through. My heart sank, as my ears filled with… whispers.